In recent posts, I shared how we can look to our minds, hearts and eyes to help us defeat boasting in our lives. Today we look at one aspect of how we can use our mouths to put an axe to the root of boasting.
THE REFINER’S FIRE
He had lost everything. About the same time thieves had taken all of his stuff, his grown children were killed in a freak storm. Without much time to process between losses, he could only be in shock. His life had always been so blessed and now everything around him had been laid waste, like a locust plagues demolishing the harvest. Where was God? Did he do something wrong?
Then Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. –Job 1:20-21
In the attitude of his heart and all of what he said, Job did not sin.
Later, when a skin disease electrified his body with pain, he still wouldn’t curse God.
The passing of time had been no comfort, but brought renewed stabs of memory over what he had lost. Sleep brought him no comfort, because nightmares awaited him. And waking up brought yet another day of relentless pain. He cursed the day he was born, declaring there was only rest for the dead. He just couldn’t understand why he had to suffer through these things. Despite having been a righteous man who served God every day, people now accused him of sinning. After all, why would God strike a righteous man? [Read Job chapters 6 and 7]
JOB CHALLENGES GOD
Job had to express all that was in his heart, and who could blame him?
“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul… Will you never look away from me, or let me alone for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you… Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:11, 20)
I can’t bear it any longer. I must have an audience with God! His suffering was so great. He had to know why! That question shadowed and barked at him, forever nipping at his heels, quenching any light that tried to penetrate his mind. More than relief for his body, he longed to spare his mind and emotions from further torment.
He trusted in his relationship with God enough to make his case before Him.
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. –Job 13:15
THE PROBLEM OF JOB IS THE PROBLEM OF HUMANITY
At first, Job blessed God, instead of cursing Him. Time, however, has a way of wearing on our patience, godliness and reserves of nobility. Job successfully finished the short run of relentless attack and senseless loss and devastation, but could he run the marathon of prolonged pain without answers? Job also had to endure the misunderstanding of the religious people around him.
Eventually, it came to the point where he had had enough! After listening to lengthy theological explanations for why it seemed as if God turned on him, Job justifies and defends himself.
- First, Job recounts his blessed past, due to God’s favor (Job 29).
- Then, Job shares his current state of suffering. (Job 30).
- Lastly, Job declares the details of his righteous walk before God (Job 31).
- In the end, Job concludes it all must be some horrible mistake. He shouldn’t have to suffer, because he’s an innocent, righteous man.
Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.
Why are all these things happening to me? I don’t deserve this. Haven’t I been good? I’ve done everything I was supposed to do and this is how you repay me.
Even though we may never say these things aloud to God, we may still harbor these accusations against God, hidden even from ourselves.
So, what does this have to do with boasting?
Simply stated: to believe in the inherent goodness of man IS to boast in mankind. It’s called humanism. To accuse God of being unfair is to declare I know better than God and I’m more compassionate than He is.
Let’s always remember how Job was a righteous man, which is why God pointed him out to satan in the first place. This story starts off with God bragging on Job.
But, later on, after the enemy’s devastating blows, Job sought to defend and justify himself to God. By doing so, he insinuated that God was somehow unfair, unjust or simply mistaken.
He went from saying, “God, be praised!” to “God, why are you doing this to me? You’ve got it all wrong.”
God somehow uses long trials, silences and delays to target the hidden things of our hearts.
GOD IS A REFINER OF SILVER
Similarly, God has been described as a refiner of silver.
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. –Malachi 3:3
The silversmith holds the silver in fire to remove the impurities, until he sees His own image reflected back to Him. As righteous as Job was, he still had dross that needed to be removed. We all do. God will seek to get to the bottom of each and every one of us.
JOB GETS HIS ANSWER, BUT NOT THE ONE HE EXPECTED
We need to be careful to identify with Job’s situation, but not to over identify with it. God uses Job’s example to teach us some of His lessons. For the most part, God wants us to honestly talk to him about anything and everything. He wants us to know we can safely share our true feelings with Him! For example, throughout the book of Psalms, David and others were honest with God about their feelings, trials, doubts, questions and how life, at times, seemed really unfair. Job’s example is just one facet of the multitude of ways God deals with His people.
It’s important, however, to pay attention to what God may want to speak to us personally through Job’s story, since we, too, as human beings share in the universal problem of pride, self-justification and wrong ideas of both God and man.
God finally answers Job with thunder and lightning!
Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said,
Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; for I will question you, and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand… –Job 38:1-4ff
Out of all of the things God could’ve said, He recounts to Job His mighty acts of creation! As you recall from last week, God reveals Himself through His creation. God wanted to bring Job back into a right perspective, by giving Job an idea of Who He was as Creator God! Remember? …God is big and eternal and I am small and here for a moment.
JOB PUTS HIS HAND OVER HIS MOUTH
After God asks him some massive, head-exploding questions, he addresses Job’s need to justify himself and accuse God.
The LORD said to Job,
Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!
Then Job answered the LORD:
I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice; but I will say no more. Job 40:1-5
In this passage, God reveals what was in Job’s heart. It’s true. Job was contending with and accusing God, wanting to correct God’s view of justice.
In the end, Job learned there was nothing fallen human beings could say in their defense before the God of creation. Job simply put his hand over his mouth and stopped speaking.
This “stop speaking” part is a huge deal! It’s something we need to practice, especially when we’re angry or have been hit by misfortune. Like Job, we’ll most likely wonder why and speak things we’ll later regret. We may even wonder if God is picking on us.
The Bible tells us there’s a time to be still and silent in our anger. There’s a time to be silent, as well as a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. –Psalm 4:4 (ESV)
The Bible concludes this word of counsel set to music with “selah,” a word indicating a reflective break in the song. Maybe God wants us to take a breather or two, especially when emotional, to get in touch with our own hearts to be still and silent before God. He may have encouraged us to respond in this way, because any “talking” on our part at that point may lead to defending and justifying ourselves and hurting others with our words.
As in Job’s case, underneath all that angst, may be a boast in self and our own inherent goodness.
LET GOD USE FIRE TO REFINE YOU
As we move closer to the End Times, we may face an increase of offense, persecution, trials, and suffering. What will we do when we come into our “Job moments” in life? How will we respond?
Like I said earlier, I totally believe in pouring our hearts out to God! Personally, God’s my best friend and confidante, so I tell Him everything and try to be as honest as possible! He understands us better than we understand ourselves, which is why he may need to uncover some things from time to time. Therefore, we want to be both transparent and forthcoming, but also humble and responsive to what God’s Spirit may show us.
In the presence of God, we can process our honest struggle and come out on the other side with more understanding and comfort. (Psalm 73 is just one example.) But, as our starting point, we need to humbly recognize who we are as finite beings in light of Who God is. Our understanding is limited, whereas God’s understanding is unsearchable.
God tempers everything with his mercy. I don’t minimize what Job went through, because he truly did suffer! I’d never want to be tested in the way he was. He had his good and bad moments; times where he understood God and times where he didn’t. One thing’s for sure, he responded much better than I would have under similar circumstances.
Similarly, each and every one of us has probably wrestled, struggled and suffered through God’s will and ways. If we haven’t yet, we will.
Job shows us that none of us will be perfect in our understanding and responses, no matter how well we believe we know God and how long we’ve been in relationship with him. Job never really got an answer to his questions on Earth. What Job got was a higher and greater vision of God, which was enough to stop short every question, doubt and challenge to God’s wisdom, justice and authority.
Job held onto the goodness and character of God through it all! He never let go! Job let the Great Silversmith refine him! In the midst of the fire, God burned away his dross. If we’re living for God, we’ll most likely be attacked at one point or another. Yet, God knows how to use even the enemy’s attacks for our good. God took what the enemy meant for evil and destruction and he used it to purify the depths of Job’s heart.
Remember the lessons of Job! God will get to the bottom of our boasting and pride! Consider it a mercy when He does! When God gets you to the place of seeing and confessing Him rightly, then He’ll be able to use you to reflect back His glory to a dark and desperate world.
THE END GOD HAD IN MIND
God “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” (Job 42:12) God is for us, not against us. He doesn’t delight in bringing needless pain and suffering to those who put their trust in Him. But, He will use hardships, difficulties and the attacks of the enemy to refine us as He did Job. That is, if we’re willing to endure the heat and the process. Ultimately, God’s intentions towards us are good and He wants the best for our lives. We hold onto to this lifeline to get to the other side, no matter what our life circumstances may look like in any given season.
Next week, we find out more of how our mouths can steer us towards praising and glorifying God rather than ourselves.
“Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin: See video below.
I feel this Chris Tomlin song somewhat captures the spirit of the end of the book of Job. Even though it’s a familiar song, please listen to it in light of our journey through the book of Job. He sings this song live in a place known for its rugged outdoor beauty, Red Rock Amphitheater near Denver, Colorado.
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
1. I bet you never thought of justifying and defending yourself as boasting. I didn’t. But, the more deeply I study God’s word in these areas, the more He reveals. Next time you feel falsely accused or unjustly treated, try to meditate upon and follow the examples of those who have gone before you. Let God judge you accurately and be your defense attorney in court.
The example of Jesus:
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. –Isaiah 53:7
The example of Paul:
I care very little, however, if I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not vindicate me. It is the Lord who judges me.Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. –1 Corinthians 4:3-5
2. Read the book of Job and/or carefully study the passages I specifically shared. Pray for God’s revelation. Pray God would speak to you through his story and the lesson you can learn from his story. Is there a circumstance in your life where you can identify with Job? Are you accusing God of being unfair and unjust? (I have a few of those situations myself.) As you study, journal, pray, etc., take some time to repent before God of your heart attitude.
3. If you are a person who tends to vent, I respectfully encourage you to follow Job’s example and put your hand over your mouth. Think of a situation which inspires you to vent and bring it before God. Be silent and reflect upon your own heart and ways before God. As you listen, I pray God will speak the thing that you need to hear and be the revealer of your own heart.
4. This blog post is more about silence than speaking. But, if you are a person who doesn’t verbally express yourself as much, consider pouring your heart out before God. We can be raw and transparent, while, at the same time, honoring God for Who He is. Take your cues from the Psalmists.
5. Speaking of the Psalms, there seems to be right way and a wrong way to approach God with our trials, doubts, struggles and complaints. Read through the book of Psalms and note how the Psalmists spoke to God and how God responded to them. If we’re not careful, we can fall in two different camps when talking to God: either we say too much to the point of not honoring God as God or we say too little, because we don’t think we can be as honest and forthcoming as God wants us to be.
6. As mentioned before, Job is a book about suffering and loss and, therefore, it’s a book about deep emotions. It’s not a clinical case study about Patient J. Even though I studied the book to a measure, I don’t think I could ever understand the depths of what Job felt lying on the ground, covered in dust and ashes. Find some creative way to access the emotions within the story and how Job must have felt.
Below: The Patience of Job, The Anguish of Job
Recently, I discovered I like watercolor painting. Not only to look at, but to do. For a predominantly left-brained person, having a creative outlet has given me a much-needed break from all of my analysis. To my surprise, I’ve found I really enjoy it! The power of art in conveying symbolism and emotion, at times, can go further than any words can reach. As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” As a complete novice, who has yet to truly develop any skill she may have and use better materials, I attempted to interpret Job’s dilemma. Even though it’s raw, I felt like God wanted me to share it.
When I look at it, it does help me to better understand his anguish.